The eclipse from Wisconsin (and Texas and Canada)

by Greg Mayer

In Kenosha, Wisconsin, the eclipse yesterday was at about the same time as in Chicago, 11:54 AM to 2:40 PM, with the peak at 1:18 PM, and slightly less complete (85%). The eclipse glasses worked fine, but drifting cloud cover obscured the view for much of the time. And, without specialized cameras, the brightness of even the partially obscured sun produced an essentially circular image.

Here’s the start of the eclipse at 11:57 AM. At this time, the moon, approaching from the upper right, had made a noticeable nick in the sun’s disk, but the camera did not reveal this.

Eclipse, Kenosha, Wisconsin, 21 August 2017, 11:57 PM.

At 12:03 PM, the nick was even more noticeable with eclipse glasses, but even using zoom, the camera could not capture it (it would be on the upper right).

Eclipse, Kenosha, Wisconsin, 21 August 2017, 12:03 PM.

I tried taking a selfie at 12:08 PM, without much success.

Eclipse, Kenosha, Wisconsin, 21 August 2017, 12:08 PM.

Here is the sun at the peak, 1:18 PM; you can see the substantial cloud cover moving through.

Peak of the eclipse (85 %), Kenosha, Wisconsin, 21 August 2017, 1:18 PM.

The sun was then obscured for some minutes. As the moon continued its traverse, moving down to the lower left, I tried taking several pictures through the eclipse glasses. They were consistent in showing an obscuration of the lower left of the sun, and I think this is actually an image of the eclipse.

Eclipse, Kenosha, Wisconsin, 21 August 2017, 1:30 PM. Taken through eclipse glasses.

I did try to note if there was any unusual animal behavior. Over the about two hours I was out watching the eclipse, I saw three birds (a swallow and two LBN’s), and a moth flew into my left arm, i.e. nothing of any significance. It did get darker and cooler, but the effects of the eclipse could not be readily distinguished from the effects of the increasing cloud cover. Here’s the rest of my eclipse party.

Eclipse watching is fun! Eclipse, Kenosha, Wisconsin, 21 August 2017.


Addendum by Jerry: Greg’s photos show pretty much what I got using my camera and eclipse glasses: not much. But you can see great photos on the Internet, and two readers sent in their own.

Reader Mark McCauley sent in an image of the eclipse from Texas:

This was taken eight miles west of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. I used the binoculars-on-tripod method to project the image. We will have a total solar eclipse here in 2024!
Reader John Corcoran in Canada also has some indirect images:

The eclipse here in Kitchener, Canada (about 60 miles west of Toronto) was partial but still very exciting. I had to walk my sister’s dog about ten minutes before maximum eclipse. I hadn’t yet made the pinhole camera I was planning on for viewing the eclipse. (I’m a last-minute kind of guy.) We were walking over a stretch of grass and dirt. While I always pick up the dog’s poop, other people aren’t so considerate, so I was watching the ground to be sure I didn’t step in any. I suddenly noticed there were dozens of images of the partially eclipsed sun on the ground! Tiny gaps between the leaves on the tree I was standing under were acting as the lenses of pinhole cameras and projecting images of the eclipse.

John asks this: “Was I facing north, south, east, or west when I took these two photos? Remember, this is maximum partial eclipse.)”  And he found other images:

I brought the dog inside and and went up to the rooftop patio of my sister’s condo, where a group had gathered. I borrowed someone’s eclipse glasses and used them, but while it was fun, I’d enjoyed the images made by the tree more. So I looked around the patio for something similar.

There were two tables whose tops were covered with tiny holes for rainfall to drain through. I looked under the tables and saw that every one of those thousands of holes was projecting an image of the eclipse!


  1. Posted August 22, 2017 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    I heard about the tree effect on NPR yesterday, so I’m excited to see those photos. Thank you, John Corcoran.

    Here where I am in northeast Vermont, a meteorologist friend said that the temperature dropped 2°F, there was a notable decline in the incoming solar radiation,from around 800 W/M^2 to less than 300 in less than two hours, winds dropped, pressure dropped, and afternoon cumulus clouds decayed likely attributed to the eclipse).

    • Posted August 22, 2017 at 8:02 am | Permalink

      sorry, poor editing there.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 22, 2017 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      Some of my better photos from 1999 were of indirect effects like leaf-pinholes.

  2. Posted August 22, 2017 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    The table pinhole camera effect is really cool – well spotted.

    • Kevin
      Posted August 22, 2017 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      Table pinhole was awesome. I like tree pinhole eclipse shadows as well.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted August 22, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Yeah, that is cool. Now I just have to try and remember that until 2038 when we get an eclipse in NZ!

    • Posted August 22, 2017 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      Wonderful observation and great photos. Thanks!

  3. bbenzon
    Posted August 22, 2017 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    NASA’s set up a Flickr page for eclipse images. Anyone can join the group and post to it. Of course, there are plenty of NASA images there.

    On the pinhole-cameras-all-over-effect, I was photographing water droplets from an outdoor fountain the other day, and when I started rendering them on my computer I realized that each drop contained an image of the sun. Thus:


    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 22, 2017 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      That’s a good photo to use in conjunction with describing how a rainbow works. (I shot a double rainbow last week.)

      • bbenzon
        Posted August 22, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        Hadn’t thought about that, but, yes, you’re right.

    • Posted August 22, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      So you can get the crescent sun in water drops during a partial eclipse. Good idea!

      • bbenzon
        Posted August 22, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

        Wish I’d thought of that yesterday. But it would have been pretty hit-or-miss. Getting such a shot is pretty chancy in any case, and with cloud cover, that slices up the windows of opportunity.

  4. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted August 22, 2017 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    And, without specialized cameras,

    nothing very special about the cameras – it’s the 99.99% or so filtering that you need to bring the image intensity range into an interval the camera can handle.
    The recommended tool for this is manufactured “solar film” (various trademarks) which is about 6 International Money Units (pint of beer) for an A4-ish sheet, providing filters for several optical systems. A corresponding filter for one camera would cost around 30 IMU. Sticky tape and an old UV filter of the right dimensions are the rest of the necessaries.
    If you know what you’re doing, and you’re willing to take the risk of cooking (footnote) the sensor in your camera/ phone, then you can cook up sufficient filtering from other sources, but really it is much better to be prepared and have the appropriate material. My (partial) eclipse photos from Benin a couple of yeas ago give more hints. But really it is better to have done one’s homework, and got good equipment.
    Footnote : “cooking” is right. If you stare too long at the sun, most of the damage is due to focussing the heat of the sun onto a small area of the retina. Or camera chip. Which is why you always put the filtering material onto the BIG end of the optical device you’re using. Eyepiece filters have been known to fracture – or even explode – under the heat loading, leaving the viewer without warning, glass in their eye, and the light from 10s of cm of area concentrated onto an eye which should only get several millimetres of diameter exposure. Don’t do that. Not even once.

    • bbenzon
      Posted August 22, 2017 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      Yes. Note that the problem of dynamic range is a general one. No surface is going to reflect the range of light intensities available in a scene. Any photograph or painting is thus going to involve compromises in color. Ernst Gombrich discusses this at some length in his magisterial classic Art and Illusion, where he’s interested in color choices in various styles of realistic painting.

      Of course the problem is particularly acute when photographing and intense light source, such as the sun. I just did a blog post about this, using the eclipse as an example.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted August 23, 2017 at 7:51 am | Permalink

        Well, if it were easy, everyone would do it perfectly, first time off.
        I sometimes wonder what i would really be like to have a “photographic” memory. I know I’ve got a better memory than normal, but I also know that it’s a long way from infallible.
        Then again, I’ve done enough darkroom work (wet version) to have no illusions about how subjective photography is too.

  5. Posted August 22, 2017 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    The effect of tree leaf shadows is one of the ‘best’ things about a partial eclipse, imo. You can also make a tiny ‘OK’ circle with your index finger, and project the sun through the hole to a light, flat surface and get the same effect. That image of the table though is especially cool!

  6. Posted August 22, 2017 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Since the totality was only 40 miles away, I went and saw it. I definitely recommend it if you have a chance. I’m not sure I would have gone if it hadn’t been so easy to get to, but it was more dramatic than I had expected. The transition to and from totality is huge, even a tiny dot of the sun showing is extremely bright. Seeing the black circle surrounded by ghostly streamers was really cool. Also, having night sky above and blue sky at the horizon.

  7. thompjs
    Posted August 22, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I normally camp in Colorado last two weeks of August every year. So we went on to Pinedale Wy where I managed to get the last motel room offered online 13 months ago.

    My friends, wife and I saw the total in Grand Teton National Park. It was quite an experience watching the light dim slowly on the Teton range. There is 360 deg sunset at totality and you could see a few stars.

    What was surprising is the corona at totality is white and not gold as so many pictures of it show. The contrast of the black moon against it was stunning.

    Really lucky to drive all the way from Houston and to have completely cloudless skies (Early morning clouds burned off).

    We had great time and met people from all over the world as well.

  8. Frank Bath
    Posted August 22, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    On Lawrence Kraus’s tw***er feed he showed what good use a colander could be put to.

    • barn owl
      Posted August 22, 2017 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      Might be a blasphemous use of a sacred item for Pastafarians though. An affront unto the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  9. rickflick
    Posted August 22, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    It’s exciting. We used a wine box “camera” here in NY and it was pretty good. I’m looking forward to the next one in April 8, 2024 which will pass right through my state. Near Buffalo.

  10. Christopher
    Posted August 22, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I noticed the cicadas starting up their usual evening racket after the totality here in KC Mo. they may have started before then but I didn’t notice as I was otherwise engaged in my skyward observations. By the time the clouds rolled back in to obscure the waning eclipse (about 20 minutes after totality) they had quieted again. Not much of an animal observation but the best I could do while stuck at my miserable job.

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